The Sad Tyranny of an Inbound-Only Approach to Winning Clients

Each of us is a prisoner to our beliefs. Our beliefs shape our interpretation of reality, as well as what we believe is good and right and true. Our interpretation can constrain our thoughts, and those thoughts can restrict our actions, even when other people have different beliefs, ones that increase their choices instead of limiting them. Those constraints can be a form of self-imposed tyranny.

For the last decade, since Web 2.0 and the advent of the social channels, there has been a significant push towards Inbound Marketing. The ability to create and share content to share with your prospective clients changed marketing, eliminating the need for a budget, an agency, or most importantly, permission to publish. For the better part of this period, salespeople, sales leaders, and sales organizations have been sold the idea that Inbound is more effective than Outbound, with the loudest voices suggesting that outbound and cold outreach is no longer necessary. They have also suggested that salespeople and sales organizations that employ an outbound approach will soon be out of business, that no one will work with people companies that use cold outreach.

Inbound-only is not a strategy that any salesperson or sales organization should consider. The result is an opportunity-starved sales force, and on that is reliant on others. 

100 Pieces of Content

Recently, a well-known social media marketer suggested that people create 100 pieces of content, a strategy this individual executes perfectly, with help from a large team and a massive investment of both time and money. The inbound-only proponents applauded the idea as an excellent idea. While it might be helpful for an individual working to develop a well-recognized brand, and a terrible idea for salespeople, and one that would be impossible to execute.

Imagine a sales force of 200 salespeople. Each salesperson creates a single blog post each week. First, someone is going to have to approve the content, another person will have to edit the content, marketing will have to vet the content, and in many industries, legal will have to consent to the publication. There is no reason for a sales force to create 10,400 pieces of content a year, and there is no marketing professional who approves a strategy that would create confusion and chaos.

Let’s set aside this extreme misinterpretation of a strategy for personal brand building as a sales strategy, and look at the real problem with an inbound-only approach.

Passivity and Waiting

Nothing about selling lends itself to passivity or waiting. The idea that one must sit patiently, waiting for content to bring them leads and opportunities might be one of the most debilitating and destructive beliefs to take hold in some organizations. The idea that content will cause people to beat a path to your door is every salesperson’s dream; what could be easier than merely taking orders? What could be better?

There is a reason we use the word “hunter” to describe salespeople. It signifies one that has to go out work to be able to feed themselves. We ‘don’t describe salespeople as fishermen or fisherwomen; the idea that someone would put a line in the water and wait for a bite, no matter how long it takes, and no matter how hungry they might be is a non-starter. 

For many reasons, there is no waiting in sales. Unlike most other areas of business, salespeople have a quota, a time-bound goal. With each day that slips by without the salesperson creating new opportunities, the deadline gets closer. Waiting is a dangerous strategy and a choice that isn’t available to salespeople or companies that intend to grow. 

A Detrimental Reliance on Others

Some people with sales titles believe that inbound should replace outbound, that it is marketing’s responsibility to bring them leads. When salespeople complain about leads not being qualified, what they are suggesting is that marketing should bring them “opportunities,” a prospect that is “ready-to-buy.” Marketing has its metrics and goals, and “new opportunities” ‘isn’t likely to be found among them. The idea that a salesperson should rely on marketing is to misunderstand the difference in the roles and goals.

Not only does an inbound-only approach cause one to rely on marketing, but it also requires them to rely heavily on luck (even though Luck loves a hustler and ignores non-hustlers). Inbound requires your dream client to open their browser, navigate to a search engine, and type it some keyword that an algorithm directs to your website. You have to rely on your client searching, the algorithm to deliver them to you, and the content to cause them to reach out to you proactively.

A Sad Form of Tyranny

The idea that your results are not within your control or influence is an unhealthy belief, and especially harmful for salespeople. Having to wait for someone else to proactively reach out to them before being able to engage with a person or company who would benefit from their help is to accept that you have no agency, that you are nothing more than a victim of circumstances beyond your control.

There is no question that inbound marketing is important, that it should be done and done well, and that it is a powerful form of marketing that can and does help sales organizations. But inbound is ancillary to an effective outbound approach, one that includes cold outreach. Outbound is greater than Inbound. 

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